Taimak was born on June 27, 1964 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Taimak Guarriello.
In 1985 he would star as “Bruce” Leroy Green in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the movie The Action Elite chats with the star about the movie, his career and how the genre has changed.
How do you think the industry changed since The Last Dragon? Do you think it’s easier to get a film made today or harder?
Well I kinda came out and then went away and now I’m just coming back. When I was younger things weren’t digital and there was no such thing as a digital camera (laughs), at least on films nobody was using that. It isn’t where it was 30 years ago; so in that way things have changed a lot and I think people are able to make films much easier and show what they can do. They don’t need much money at all to make a trailer or a short film but other than that I can’t really say about any major differences. There are more films being made because of that and there are more platforms to show things on like On Demand, Cable, etc.
You’ve been writing and directing your directorial debut ‘I’ve Seen Things’ about a martial artist master who’s also a detective; how’s that coming along?
I’m working on getting another producer for it but I got caught up a little bit focussing more on getting back out there. I was away doing theatre and fight choreography but I needed to show my face more, you know? So I started doing some of these comic conventions last year and here we are going to the 30th anniversary of The Last Dragon. I thought it was important for people to see more of me so that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. I kinda want to do that more before seeking out real action on the films I love.
What is your favourite genre? Is it mostly action and martial arts?
I actually like all genres, to me a good film is a good film whether it’s a comedy, action or a drama; I really love action films though. Ever since I was a kid I as captivated by it, especially superheroes and stuff like that. I’ve felt that over the years I’ve kind of honed my skills, but I’m always training so I do have the skill to do martial arts/action.
With the advancement of technology over the years do you think it has improved or impeded fight scenes?
I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing as no one is really saying that action movie fight scenes are any better now. It’s really the person that makes the fights and the cameraman. Bruce Lee can still captivate an audience because he understands more of the acting. It’s always more about the acting than the special effects; of course, you have to be a legitimate martial artist but I think you also need to understand acting too. You have to have a bottom line, a relationship with another character and you have to understand the dynamics of the scene. All of those things play into creating a great fight scene and someone like Bruce Lee understood that and that’s why he is such a legend.
He really is; even now there are few martial arts stars who have achieved his legendary status…
All you have to do is think of the man himself; if someone has depth that’s intriguing and not the typical street fighter, then you’re interested in this person.
Are you a fan of UFC and MMA?
I am actually; I’ve worked out with a couple of the guys and I trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Marcelo Garcia who’s a world champion in jiu jitsu. I’ve been around it but I think the brand of martial arts has dwindled down to athleticism and violence. It’s not that I don’t like the UFC, it’s just that I think there’s not enough balance. Back when I was a kid you had all kinds of kung fu movies and series with Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba. I feel they’ve lost the wisdom and the philosophy behind the martial arts; what made the martial arts wasn’t just a kick or punch or how well it was executed. It was more about how he lived his life and have the courage to face different circumstances.
Kind of a belief system basically?
Yeah, it’s like Shogun Assassin with the Bushido code and that’s very much lacking today. In a day like today where there is so much violence going on in the world, I don’t see why more films don’t focus on the wisdom.
Well this year is the 30th anniversary of The Last Dragon; what do you think the enduring appeal is of the movie and characters?
I think that not only was it a very entertaining film but I think it had a uniqueness and there was nothing like it. So when something that unique and entertaining comes along with that combination, it’s what makes people really hold on to it and show it to their kids. I realized over time that Berry Gordy was a master of making hit songs; so he must have chosen this script because there are so many good lines, where were almost like lyrics.
When I meet fans they’re always talking about the different things in the film that stick with them. People are always saying “Oh man, we always recite those lines at work” so people are talking about it all the time. I think that’s why it has stuck around for so long. It also relates to young people; little kids can enjoy it as well as adults so it has that wide range of appeal.
The character of Bruce Leroy is such a likeable hero too; he’s an innocent and a genuinely good person. If they made the film today, it would be more gritty and dark and probably have no sense of hope.
Yeah, it’s not to say that there aren’t good tough guys but it’s like I was saying, it’s trying to find the balance.
There’s been talk for a while about a sequel or reboot, any word on how that is coming and what is your involvement?
They still seem to be in conversation about it and in Hollywood you just never know (laughs). I think people want something like that; I think they’d prefer a reboot/sequel rather than a remake because remakes are always such a turn-off to people. Unless it’s like 100 years later or something but I’m still alive, so the elements of making an action packed and entertaining sequel would be more interesting. Introducing younger characters at another stage, maybe in a trilogy or something could be interesting too… When you have talented people working on it then you can do a lot.
You do a lot of charity work too; can you tell us about some of your work?
I just went to a charity event; I’d written a seminar that helps young people make a connection between their dreams and their school work. Usually kids have problems focusing on school because they don’t see how it connects to their future. So it’s like “OK, I’m doing maths, I’m doing science, etc…” but unless they are passionate about those two subjects then they need to be motivated to really develop. In the seminar I kind of communicate to them and have them understand how their future is related to their present moment and what they are doing in school. When they see that then it becomes more personal. I named that The Unfolding Dream program and delivered it all over the country but I’ve taken a break to focus more on getting back out there and into films again. I’m definitely open to doing more of that.
I remember watching the documentary “Life After…” which was fascinating and it had you talking with youths about going to college and becoming lawyers…
Yeah, when you learn something that’s able to get you through tough times and especially if you come from a tough area; maybe you’re a single parent or don’t have much income or a family, I think it’s important that kids see hope, that’s the main thing. They either lose hope or don’t have any role model that they can really grip on to; there are a lot of kids who really want to do well but they don’t have a mentor. Of course the hands on mentor like the parents are the best but they’re not always available or they’re gone for whatever reason, so it’s good to have someone they can talk and relate to that gives them hope while keeping them motivated.
When they’re looking round their area all they are seeing is the bad stuff and even though some kids want to do well, if that’s all they see then that’s what they become. Just to get them excited about their future is the key.